What Is an Antipsychotic?

An antipsychotic is a type of medication used to treat a mental disorder such as schizophrenia. Examples include chlorpromazine, ziprasidone, and olanzapine. Depending on the drug, it may be available as a pill, drinkable liquid, or injection. There are often side effects associated with these drugs, such as muscle spasms, weight gain, and drowsiness. The amount of time a person must take this type of medication before seeing results can vary.
Antipsychotic medications are designed to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related illnesses. This type of medication is not meant to cure the mental disorder. Conditions such as schizophrenia have no known cure. Instead, people are prescribed antipsychotics to treat the symptoms of their conditions, such as hallucinations, delusions, and agitation. The goal of such treatment is generally to help individuals with psychotic disorders to be able to function more normally and effectively.
The use of antipsychotic medication is not new. Many of the drugs in this category have been used for decades. Drugs that were developed before the 1990s are commonly referred to as typical antipsychotics, and those that were made in the 1990s and later are referred to as atypical.
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Using antipsychotic drugs for treatment presents a number of challenges. Prescribing an effective medication is one of the first priorities that a health care provider may have. A drug that works for one patient may not work for another, even when the patients have similar symptoms. It is common to find that patients must go through a trial-and-error process that involves testing several drugs before finding the one that best suits them.
In some cases, a user can experience positive effects from an antipsychotic drug in a matter of days. Other people may not experience results for more than a month. When people do begin to feel better, many begin to skip doses, or they completely stop taking their medication. As a result, they may experience recurring symptoms.
Antipsychotics are powerful medications that may affect a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. These medications are also associated with a wide range of side effects, which will vary depending on the drug that is consumed. For example, one antipsychotic, clozapine, causes a loss of white blood cells, or agranulocytosis, in some users. Other potential side effects include dizziness, rashes, and menstrual problems. A person who is taking an antipsychotic may also experience muscle tremors and weight gain.

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